I’m not sure how to begin this post, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to write for months now, so I guess I’ll just dive right into it. Ever since I shared my pregnancy news, people have (naturally) been asking me if I plan to return to work full time once the baby is born. It surprises me how many people, both men & women, seem truly shocked when I tell them I’m only coming back to work part time, hopefully one night a week. (For those who don’t know, I’m a night shift nurse.)
There are a multitude of reasons why I’ve chosen not to return to work full time, but they all basically boil down to this one simple fact: I am not superwoman. I realize it is the norm nowadays for women to work full time while raising young children, but I have never thought this made a lot of sense, either biologically or psychologically. It just doesn’t seem logical to me that I would spend nine months growing & nurturing a baby only to wind up allowing a daycare (or anyone other than me & my husband) to essentially raise her.
To be fair, I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am extremely lucky to have a career & finances that allow me to work part time, but I also think our society has forgotten that so many things we think of as necessities nowadays are really options. Part of the reason my husband & I will be financially able to live off of only one full time salary once the baby is born is because we have always been so frugal & responsible with our money. Maybe that makes us boring, but I couldn’t possibly care less at this point in our lives.
Trust me, over the years we have learned that some things are worth spending a little extra money to get a true quality product, especially if it’s something that could affect your health (like good shoes for the gym/hiking or work). But at the same time we’ve found ways to cut monthly expenses by skipping out on cable TV & expensive restaurants/bars, etc. I’m also not the type of woman who gets monthly pedicures, haircuts, or other such things. The most I’ve ever spent on a purse is $40, & aside from gym/work shoes, I’ve never spent more than about $30 on a pair of shoes. Nor have I ever spent more than $30 on a pair of jeans. I buy used books & the Kroger brand of almost everything at the grocery store. I suppose I can thank my mom for teaching me to be so frugal. I’ve been called cheap before, but it doesn’t bother me one bit because the people who say that almost certainly have a lot less money to their name than I do. So who’s really the cheap one?
Anyway, I’ve wandered from the point, so let me return to explaining what I mean when I say I am not superwoman. I work with & know plenty of women who do work full time while also raising young children, & I am continually amazed at how they manage to “do it all.” At the same time I’m fully aware that most, if not all of them, are constantly under a great deal of stress & suffer from a fair amount of guilt over the time they are missing with their children due to work. If nothing else, I know they suffer from a massive sleep debt & lack of any “me time,” neither of which is physically or psychologically healthy. I’m not saying being a stay at home mom is a walk in the park. But I’ve certainly never met a stay at home mom who regretted her choice to spend those first few years of her children’s lives at home with them. On the other hand I meet working moms all the time who say they wish they could/had been able to be stay at home moms or to work part time while their children are/were young. The point is maybe other women are ok living with that level of stress but I’m not. Life is way too short to be stretched that thin.
When I was in nursing school I was confident I would be the first (or one of the first) among my class to go back to school. I was certain I wouldn’t work more than five years as a bedside nurse before I’d be in NP school because being an NP was always my ultimate goal. As it turns out I’ve now been a bedside nurse for just over five years, & I’m now far less certain that being an NP is my long term goal, or in any case, I’m in no hurry to reach that goal. I used to think I’d be so jealous if I saw friends or classmates of mine returning to school before I did, but the truth is I’m not jealous at all. I’m sure there will come a time in my life when I do wish to become an NP or to further my education in some way, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that time is not now. If for no other reason, there is no biological timeline for higher education, but there most certainly is a biological timeline for having children, no matter how much we modern women do not like to admit it.
Just to be clear, this post is not meant to disparage women who do work full time while raising young children. Once again, I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to even have the choice of working part time once our baby is born. And if there is anything I’ve learned in life it is that there is not one right path for everyone. We are obviously all different people so it is only logical that what works for one person or family won’t work for another.
I just know that for me, especially with my anxiety issues & OCD tendencies, to try to work full time while also raising young children would be a nightmare. As much as I do enjoy nursing, at the end of my life, whether that be at 35, 55, or 85, I know that my career will not be most important to me. Is it hard for me to think about possibly losing traction in my career? Sure. But not nearly as hard as thinking about missing out on those early formative years with my children. (I say children because I do hope to have one more after this one.) My mom always said if you got the first few years right, the rest would be easy, & I truly think she was correct about that. To be honest, it isn’t the teenage years that scare me, it’s the toddler years. I know most moms are sad as their kids grow up & aren’t “little” anymore, but I don’t anticipate that being a serious problem for me. I’ve always enjoyed older kids & teenagers more, but even so, I can’t stand the thought of a daycare (or anyone else) spending more time with my children than me in the first few years of their lives. The way I see it is both nursing & motherhood are far, far too important to do halfway, & at least for me, to try to do both full time would be to allow both to suffer. And that is not acceptable to me.
So, in conclusion, yes, I have chosen to only work part time once the baby is born. I used to think that would be a hard decision to make, but it’s actually been surprisingly easy. I know modern society teaches women that we can “do & have it all,” & while I have no desire to return to the 1940s or 50s when women were expected to be stay at home moms (hell, even stay at home wives), I am fully aware of my own limitations. That is why I’ll be the first to admit that I am not superwoman, & I have never been so at peace with the knowledge that I cannot do or have it all.